Home Hydroponics

Learn to set up a hydroponics system at home! This course is a good starting point for those who have little experience in horticulture or hydroponics and whose main interest is in growing at home.

Course Code: AHT107
Fee Code: S1
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn how to grow vegetables, herbs and other plants with hydroponics at home!

Develop a solid grounding in the principles of soilless cultivation of plants. To successfully grow plants with hydroponics, it is essential that you have a good understanding of how the plant grows, so that you can control the temperature, water, oxygen, nutrients etc. in the root zone.

This course is a good starting point for those who have little experience in horticulture or hydroponics and whose main interest is in growing AT HOME. Unlike our other hydroponics courses, this course is NOT intended for commercial growing in any way. You will learn the theory behind hydroponic culture, as well as receive first hand practical experience as you set up your own basic hydroponic system.

  • A course for home gardeners with limited space or a passion for applying technology.
  • Learn the theory behind this space efficient method of growing.
  • Grow anything from vegetables and berries, to cut flowers and herbs.
  • Start any time, work at your own pace.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Hydroponics & Plant Growth
    • Scope and Nature of Hydroponics and terminology (Water Culture, Sand and Gravel Culture, Rockwool, Vermiculaponics, Hydroculture, etc)
    • How it Works
    • A Simple Manual System to Create
    • History of Hydroponics
    • Understanding How Plants Grow
    • Understanding the Water Requirements and Management
    • Photosynthesis
  2. Basic Chemistry, Nutrition & Nutrient Solutions
    • Significance of understanding chemistry for hydroponics
    • Understanding Basic Chemistry
    • Atoms and Compounds
    • The important Plant Nutrients
    • Writing Chemical Names
    • What concentrations of different nutrients does a plant need?
    • Nutrient solutions
    • Preparing Nutrient Solutions
    • Mechanisms of Nutrient Uptake
  3. More on Nutrient Solutions
    • Understanding differences between Soil Culture and Soil less Culture
    • The nitrogen Cycle
    • Mycorrhyzae
    • Summary of fertilizers used in Hydroponic Nutrients
    • Calculating Chemical Formulae
    • Hydroponic Nutrition
  4. Media and Types of Systems
    • Classification of Hydroponic Systems
    • What Makes up a System; system variables; Solution Dispensation, Closed or open, Drip, slop, capillary feed, wicks, misting, dry fertilizing etc, Automatic or Manual Operation, Type of Medium, Construction Materials, Rate & Frequency of Irrigation & Feeding, Air Injection (In water culture), Plant Support, Environment controls.
    • Choosing a System
    • Types of Media
    • Rockwool
    • Vermiculite
    • Sand
    • Leca, (Expanded Clay)
    • The Bentley System
  5. Designing a System
    • Nutrient Film Technique
    • Alternative NFT Layouts
    • Solution Dispensation Options (closed or open system, drip, slop, flood, capillary, dry, mist, etc)
    • 16 Other System Options
  6. Problems in Hydroponics
    • Pest and Disease
    • Nutrition
    • Environmental
    • Diagnosis of Nutritional Problems
    • Controlling Acidity
  7. Plant Culture
    • Flow Charting a Crop
    • Greenhouse Management
    • Controllers (Salinity, pH)
    • Adjusting Solutions using an Electro Conductivity Meter
  8. Solid Media vs Water Culture
    • Indoor Plants
    • Berries
    • Gravel Culture compared with NFT
  9. Growing Vegetables in Hydroponics
    • Fresh Cut Herbs in Hydroponics
    • Lettuce
    • Tomatoes
    • Cucumber
    • Review of all other common vegetables that are suited to hydroponics
  10. Growing Cut Flowers in Hydroponics
    • Overview
    • Roses
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Carnations
    • Review of many other common flowers that are suited to hydroponics

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Describe the nature and scope of hydroponic growing in a hobby situation.
  • Explain basic plant nutrition chemistry in order to describe the composition and function of hydroponic nutrients.
  • Differentiate between a variety of fertilisers and hydroponic nutrients, and suggest how these might be used appropriately in the growing of different types of plants in a hydroponic garden.
  • Compare options for media and systems, in order to choose what is appropriate to a specific home situation.
  • Design a hydroponic system suited to a particular home situation
  • Diagnose common ailments in a hydroponic system, make a determine appropriate action.
  • Describe the course of a hydroponic crop in a home situation from initial planting to harvest, and treatment of the harvested crop.
  • Differentiate between solid media and nutrient film hydroponic techniques, and the way in which plants may be treated differently in each.
  • Plan the production of a sequence of vegetable and herb produce for household use from hydroponic production.
  • Determine appropriate methods for hydroponic cut flower production in a home situation.

WHAT IS HYDROPONICS?

Hydroponics can simply be said to be the process used to grow plants without soil. It literally means ‘working water’. The grower is taking ‘control’ of the plant's root environment, and losing the benefit of 'mother nature's' finely-tuned mechanisms which normally control that part of the plant's environment. A hydroponic grower provides the optimal levels of food and water that plants need for growth in the form of nutrient solutions. They can also control the environment in a variety of ways to influence plant growth, such as by providing artificial light, humidity, or by manipulating temperatures.

Hydroponics is not necessarily an easier way to grow plants! It is a more controlled way of growing plants!

The problem with soil-grown plants though is that often nutrients, water, air and other conditions are not present at optimal levels for plant growth. Hydroponics allows the grower to successfully manipulate plant growth by taking control of the functions which are usually handled by the soil. Instead of using soil, hydroponics uses an inert growing medium, such as clay pellets or coir, which supports the plants and their roots. Water and nutrients are then provided to this medium in the form of nutrient solutions which are absorbed by plant roots.


What is in a Hydroponic System?
There are many different types of hydroponics system, but they are all commonly made up of some (or all) of the following components:

  • Reservoir or water tank - this is the water and nutrient supply

  • Water pump - to pump water around the system (including a timer)

  • Air pump or bubbler - to keep water aerated (oxygenated)

  • Grow beds - area where the plants will be grown

  • Growing media - gravel, clay pellets, coir, etc.

  • Hardware components - other parts include pipes, taps, channels, plant pots, etc.

  • Water heaters - or coolers -depending on climate.


Why Use Hydroponics at Home
Some people simply love the technology, others like the potential to grow more plants for longer periods of the year, and in smaller spaces.
For people with limited mobility (eg. disabled or elderly); hydroponics can allow them to grow without digging or heavy work that might be associated with other forms of gardening.

 

 
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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Timothy Walker

Timothy is a Botanist, Horticulturist and Gardener. He is an Author, and also a lecturer at Somerville College, Oxford. After training at a number of gardens including Windsor Great Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Timothy commenced work at Oxford Botanic Gardens in 1986. Appointed as "Horti Praefectus" (Superintendent/Director) there in 1988, he held that position until 2014. Under Timothy's watch, the garden won four gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, and developed 67 acres of MG5 wild flower meadow at the Harcourt Arboretum; a UK threatened habitat. Timothy remains an active practical gardener as well as a highly respected international academic in the fields of horticulture and plant botany.

Rosemary Davies

Originally from Melbourne, Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Burnley, a campus of Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.

She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.

Megan Cox

Megan has completed a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Conservation) with Honours from Writtle University College, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Countryside Management from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Her experience includes working as a Botanist, Ecologist, Head Gardener, Market Gardener and a Farming and Conservation Officer.

She has worked in various roles in Horticulture, Agriculture and Ecology since 2005. Megan has worked for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Centre for Environment and Rural Affairs among other organisations in the UK, as well as in Australia and Cambodia.

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